British packaging giant DS Smith has announced that it has replaced 1.2bn pieces of plastic a year ahead of schedule.

The company’s target included any primary or secondary plastic packaging that has now been reduced or completely removed from customers’ packaging as a direct result of DS Smith’s plastic replacement solution.

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The target extends across DS Smith’s operations in 27 countries in Europe and North America, working towards the shared objective of designing out waste and keeping materials in use for longer.

Certain markets stand out, having reduced or avoided the most amount of plastic through the supply of fibre-based alternatives. The UK comes in first place with 274m plastic pieces replaced, followed by France with 260m pieces and Germany with 153m.

Everyday plastic items that have been replaced from supermarket shelves include fruit and vegetable punnets, plastic carriers and the shrink wrap commonly found on soft drink bottles.

The achievement has its roots in a plastic replacement and reduction programme established in 2020 as part of DS Smith’s Now & Next Sustainability Strategy, which supports the business’s purpose: to redefine packaging for a changing world.

Also critical to meeting the 1bn target, and a fundamental part of the design process at DS Smith, are its circular design principles and circular design metrics, created in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Each of DS Smith’s 800 designers has been trained in circular design principles and can assess performance against areas such as recycled content and recyclability, indicative estimated CO₂ emissions, levels of excess waste and supply chain parameters in partnership with customers.

DS Smith group chief executive Miles Roberts commented: “This is very much the beginning. There are many more positive impacts we can make by supporting our customers and communities in their sustainability goals and we are extremely motivated by this mission.”